No Where Else
30 Writers, 30 Days, 1 Story
“Embark On The Journey“
“Run just fucking run!”, screams Alex as he overtakes Jessica. She risks a look behind her, what she sees spurs her on. Oh shit thinks Alex, where next? If he leads them to a dead end? Well best not to think about that. Jessica desperately grabs his arm, “Gotta stop, oh please…just a…minute”, she gasps at him, her lungs on fire. Alex just shakes her off, “They’re coming!”, he tells her, then without a backward glance carries on. “Bastard”, spits Jessica at his back, but somehow manages to find the strength to follow. She runs into him around the next corner, he has stopped frozen, eyes scanning, searching. He points to a large building they both know.
“There Jess, we’re going to have to go there.” Jessica pales and looks at him beseechingly, “Please A, not there please” He just shrugs and head down starts to run toward it, “No choice, not now, there is no where else”
by Baldy Chaz
“Jess, don’t stop!” yelled Alex, “suck it up and get your ass in gear.” Tired and annoyed at his attitude Jess takes off running and yells back, “Fuck off A, I am coming!” That building brought back many unresolved issues and she wasn’t in the mood to deal with that shit now, but there was no where else.
Finally catching up to him, she slugs him in the arm and speeds past him. Grabbing his arm, he screams out, “Ouch!! What the hell Jess?” Turning around and sticking out her tongue, she shouts, “that’s for your comment earlier, and for getting me in this mess!” Stumbling and nearly falling on her ass, she starts to laugh, but quickly recovers. Alex falls into step beside her, grabs her by the waist, and spins her around. Jess startled, looks up at him, “What A?” Seeing the confusion on her face he releases her and says, “you are a wicked woman, come along our building awaits us.” What the hell is wrong with him thought Jess, and for the first time she notices the gun in her hand. “Alex… A…” looking up she notices that he is no where in sight. “ALEX!”
by Deborah McConnell
“ALEX!” reverberates inside her head, over and over. Stumbling around Jess collides with an unseen object that takes her breath away, sending her crashing to the floor. She can taste the bile in her mouth; involuntarily she retches, turning her head so she doesn’t choke on her own vomit.
Blackness descends slowing, its face grinning, mocking her, as it envelops her whole being. She wants to scream, but is paralyzed by a fear that she had buried deep inside many years ago.
Her eyes snap open. Lying on her back, murkiness confronts her, esoteric colors and images distract her momentarily, until her adrenaline strikes like a hammer. “Get a fucking grip!” Her breathing becomes measured, her body taught as she begins to flex her extremities, gauging the situation. After all she was trained for this. Wasn’t she?
The silence is ended by a piercing scream that causes Jess to gasp. The questions that were beginning to line up in an orderly fashion now cascade, and threaten to overwhelm her like an avalanche. She knows that if she doesn’t move she will die, alone and without answers.
Jess finally finds some comfort as she discovers her Glock nested snuggly in its holster.
by Neil Chatterton
With the Glock firmly gripped in her hands, Jess moves stealthily in the muted darkness. Alex?
Where the hell is he? Whose scream was that?
Are we in the middle of an assignment, or is it someone’s vendetta? Shit! Alex is always getting me into trouble and, also out of it….thinks Jess ruefully.
As she moves forward, she is acutely aware of her breath and also a presence, invisible…a dead giveaway of her presence to her enemy….fear.
Did they train us not to fear? She takes a couple of deep breaths, when ‘BANG’, a gunshot! Jess instinctively drops to the ground. Before she can roll over and shoot towards the sound, there’s another gun shot from the opposite direction and a thud!
“Get up girl, let us move our asses out of here.”
It’s Alex. ALEX??
Alex is assessing the situation on which way to run.”Left” says Jess. “Right” says Alex simultaneously. Both lock their eyes, a deadlock of will of two strong and fiercely independent individuals.
by Janaki Nagaraj
At that moment, a high pitch screech breaks through the air. It’s the sound of metal on metal, the scream of the ’Machine’. Alex and Jess look at each other in terror, blood turning cold. Their stand off forgotten, they turn as one, and run. In despair, Jess feels the reassuring weight of the Glock against her thigh, knowing it’s useless against one of those things. They can break you as easily as snapping a twig. She bites her lip to keep control of the fear that is threatening to strip away her sanity. Her and Alex have failed in their mission. She knows this. How can they go back and look their leaders in the eye now?
Tearing blindly down an alley, praying it led out of the broken city, they hear the machine breaking through the walls of the building, as if were made of paper, not concrete. Their last vestige of hope is being destroyed, systematically, brick by brick. There is nowhere else. Alex suddenly stops as Jess crashes into him. “What the…” She yells. Out of the shadows steps a man in a black uniform, slowly pulling off his hood. “What the …” She says again.
by Louise Hastings
With the moonlight shining on his face he looks straight at her. A cold look that cuts through her soul. “What the…”, she exclaims! It is merely a whisper. A chill ran down her spine as she fell back against the wall. She will never forget that face as long as she lives. Oblivious to the thundering sound of the machines close to them, she lets her mind drift back to that fateful day.The day they first met.
The date: 20 April 2080. Our ship the Oasis VII had just landed in un-chartered terrain. It was my first assignment, long before I was working with Alex. I was ready. I knew I could handle this assignment. Our instructions were clear: Find and eliminate the target.
The soft voice of Alex brings her back to reality. She never had the opportunity to tell him about that assignment. She didn´t have the courage. She knew he wouldn´t understand. “Jess, our situation is hopeless”. “I know”, Jess says. They look at each other.
“Alex, have I ever told you about Wakashamo?”, Jess softly asks. “Jess not now, you can tell me all about it when we get out of this mess”, Alex sounds impatient as he glances towards the man in the shadows.
by Nelieta Mishchenko
“We’re not getting outta this mess. We’re stuffed…ever since you fucked up back there. There’s no way outta here except with that guy’s help! He knows this city…we have to trust him. I know him”
Alex shrugs, grabs Jess, pulls her in front using her body to shield himself while pointing his pistol, an H&K P8 at the man confronting them. The gun is empty; those last rounds were wasted just bouncing off their armoured pursuers. But the man in front doesn’t know – reacting by throwing his arms up to show he wasn’t carrying.
“You bastard?” Jess yells. ” You screwed up, now you care more for yourself than me. We’re supposed to be a team!” She struggles then as if accepting her stuation, she relaxes.
Suddenly Jess twists, rams one heel down on Alex’s instep, turns and sweeps the gun aside and rakes her nails down his face.” Alex screams, stumbles as blood blinds him…backing up away from the immediate danger, hobbling while wiping at his face.
“You bitch! I never trusted you…it was too simple…the plan you said would work – just crap! You want me to trust him now?”
The man is upon him!
by Jim McIntosh
Instinctively, Alex threw his hands up in an attempt to stop the attack. The man was quicker, however, and he managed to get his teeth into Alex’ neck. The same teeth that had fed on the brains of women and the hearts of children now dug deep into his flesh, severing the jugular. The blood flowed without hesitation into the man’s mouth. He swallowed greedily. With Alex near death the man dug his teeth deeper into his throat. He jerked his head, pulling a chunk of flesh out of his neck. He swallowed the chunk, and with a bloodstained grin watched as Alex fell dead on the spot.
The man walked over to Jess. She stood her ground, watching him. They stood for what seemed like an eternity staring, one at the other. Finally, the man reached out his hand to Jess. She took it and he pulled her toward him. They embraced and she tasted Alex’ blood on his lips as she drove her tongue into his mouth.
by John Mountain
“…Jess…Jess…” Jessica heard a voice whispering into her ear. As the voice spoke softly, she noticed a bright light in front of her eyes. The voice whispering her name got louder in her ear…
“Jess…Jess…wake up…wake up baby….” The light was blinding her now…she opened her eyes to see a dark silhouette standing over her on the ground.
“Wake up Jess… are you ok?” Alex looked down with concern in his voice. Jess could see his face as she gazed up at him and her eyes adjusted to the light. There was concern written on his face, etched into the lines of worry around his eyes.
“Yes…I am…fine” Jessica whispered to him. “What happened?”
“You got knocked out by the debris flying from the machine…I pulled you into another room and then drew them away from here” Alex replied, as he knelt by her side and ran his fingers slowly across her face with a tender motion.
“Do you think you can stand now Jess?” Alex helped her up and held her in his arms for a moment. Jess leaned into him, feeling the warmth of his body seep into hers.
“I’m fine, just give me a moment to get a little steadier, then I will be ready to move” Jess replied. She could still remember the vision of the man ripping into Alex’s flesh and drinking his blood. The thought made her shiver. It had all seemed so real.
“What are you thinking?” asked Alex.
…dare she tell him? Jess wasn’t sure he would understand if she did. So she said…
by Cathy Jones Tittle
“I have a confession to make before it’s too late. I’ve wanted to tell you my feelings for you for some time but in our world feelings can be dangerous and deadly…..Alex, you mean more to me than any other being. We can spend our lives together as far as I’m concerned. But that can never be. The machines, my past, our handlers and our assignment are too much to overcome.” With those words said Jess leaned further into Alex’s muscled body and drank in as much warmth as she could. Alex responded with a passionate kiss that sent bolts of heat throughout Jess’s body. Jess sighed and with a fiery kiss Alex knew Jess was his for the taking.
A bright light appeared from the shadows. Their handlers! They were roughly pulled apart. “You’ve failed – both of you!” screamed the two handlers. “You two didn’t think we could let this love and romance business happen, did you?” they laughed derisively. With warp speed Jess……..
by Mari Sterling Wilbur
Flung her right arm backwards hitting her handler square in his groin while launching her head back; breaking his nose. This rapid transference of control forced the handler to the ground; bleeding and writhing in agony. Before the second handler had time to react, Jess launched directly towards him; right legged tautly extended. She struck the handler brutally in his face; knocking down both him and Alex simultaneously. Her razor sharp stiletto lodged gruesomely between the handler’s eyes. “GET THE FUCK UP!” Jess screeched at a clearly dazed Alex. She wriggled her foot out of the now brain matter encrusted shoe, hurling its mate into the fresh blood now pooling on top of the barren ground. Jess exclaimed, “It’s time to run again! I’m so fucking sick of this redundant shit!!” “Something doesn’t feel right about this! They should have anticipated your assault!” Alex yelled in Jess’s general direction, not wanting to take his eyes off the dusky horizon ahead of them.
If Jess and Alex could just make it to the handler’s ship before the imminent nightfall they would be home free. But, where the hell was that ship and how long did they have before the remaining handler and those creatures that they were sent to dispose of, caught up to them and extracted their sinister revenge?
by Jenni De La Torre
Alex broke the second handlers’ neck with a twist and a snap. It had been too late: the handler had activated his emergency switch when he saw his partner go down. The clarion “Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!” sound reverberated off the buildings and into the surrounding area.
Both Jessica and Alex said “shit” at the same time. Propelled by the sound, they ran. There was no time for recriminations, no times for smart ass remarks, no time for inane chatter. Their lives depended, now, on finding some way to safety.
The alarms went silent the second the floodlights drenched the surrounding area. They were caught in a path of light so bright they had no where to hide. Running was the only option, and they continued on.
Behind them, ferocious sounding roaring was heard. The sounds were getting closer, and there seemed to be no place to hide.
Jessica fell. Alex turned, he ran back to her, their eyes met, and Alex went down. One of the beasts was lacerating his chest.
by Stuart Nager
A bright flash of light, then darkness. “Jess… Jess… Jessica, wake up!” Her eyes closed and clinched as if in pain, she slowly moved her head from side to side. Alex was relieved she was coming around.
Jessica opened her eyes, and had a slight awareness of her thoughts… was it all over? She recognized Alex’s face, then slowly raised her hands and began feeling his chest. “You’re okay”, she said softly. Alex was confused. “What the?…” Jessica smelled the freshness of the air, noticed green grass, trees, birds chirping… “What happened? Where are the buildings, the machines, your chest is fine… Where are we?”
Alex said, “Jessica, I’m fine, but you passed out for a minute.”
“A minute!”, Jessica screamed. “We’ve been on the run for days, what do you mean a minute? Where are we!”, Jessica yelled as she tried to sit up.
Alex replied in calm voice, “we were driving and you saw this field and wanted to stretch your legs a bit, but then suddenly dropped to the ground. Are you hurt anywhere? Is your head okay? You fell pretty hard; I thought you might have hit your head on a rock.”
Alex’s calm voice only irritated her… “Of course I’m okay”, Jessica shouted. “Stop playing around and tell me what’s going on? Why are we in this field? Where are the handlers, the machines… what year is this? Why is the sky clear? Tell me Alex, please, what’s going on?” As Jessica looked in Alex’s eyes and waited for an explanation, a bright flash of light, and then darkness.
“Jess… Jess… Jessica, wake up!”
by Bruce Aristeo
Suspended between here and there, life and death, Jess is aware of her name being called in the distance. Traces of past and future flash in her mind…
“Jess wake up..” Flash! The terror returns as she sees the cloaked one lunge and devour her love.
Her Love? “What the fuck am I thinking?”
“Jess, it’s time..” Flash! Terror subsides to the powerful wave of elation as she is flesh to flesh with Alex in a field she had not visited since she was a child.
“My love?” The darkness begins to recede. Where is she? When is she? And where is Alex…and yes… she must admit, she does love him.
The final veils of darkness subside, but she has been restrained, hands and legs bound to the chair she rests in.
“Come on girl. Get it together.. You’ve gotten out of worse before.” She scans the room. She has no idea where she is, and how could she? Her mind has been playing these scenes over for the past few weeks. She now wishes she had trusted Alex with this knowledge.
ALEX! Where the fuck is he?
“Ah… that’s what I wanted to see. You’re asking yourself where that little man of yours is, aren’t you?”
Jess focuses her attention to the corner of the room. Stepping boldly out of the darkened corner; the hooded man from the alley, and Alex no where in sight.
“What the fuck is really going on here?” Her heart cannot take any more of this. Back into the depths of her subconscious she returns.
by Justice Calo Reign
“Fuck! Will I ever have an adventure like this?” Yells Stacey at her keyboard thinking of the countless best-sellers she has written about Jess and Alex.
“These two have done it all, they have fallen in love and battled countless enemies in every book… AND I CAN’T MANAGE TO GET LAID AT A BUCKS NIGHT,” she rebukes to herself.
The room is dark, the only light comes from the lamp suspended over Stacey’s computer. Used coffee cups strewn her desk and wrappers from an assortment of snacks litter the floor. Stacey stares at the screen with disappointment on her face. “One day,” she whispers, “One day.”
The silence is broken as her mobile phone jumps to life. U2’s, (It’s a beautiful day), is the ring tone, Stacey turns and looks at it. “Shit!”, she groans. It’s her publisher, the book is already two weeks late and she is running out of excuses. Stacey hesitantly answers, “Hi Hillary.”
“Stacey, hello,” Hillary replies, “Tell me you are just leaving with the manuscript?” Silence. “Well… not quite,” Stacey eventually answers. “Stacey I have people waiting, what would you have me tell them now.” Hillary asks in a stern tone.
Stacey knows she will have more time, Hillary and her go back a long way and it was Stacey’s first novel Oasis VII that saved Hillary’s publishing house. “I know, I know,” Stacey replies. “Just a few more days, I promise.” Pause, “Fine, I will call Friday. Just get it finished.” The phone goes dead.
Sitting there under the glow of the lamp Stacey contemplates her life. She closes her eyes and imagines embracing Alex. ’She is Jess….’
The apartment shakes causing Stacey to open her eyes widely, the lamp is now invisible from the light coming from her windows, her walls and floors now start to shake violently. The empty coffee cups crash to the floor, the pictures on the walls fall, the sound of glasses breaking can just be heard over the rumble of what sounds like a jet engine.
Stacey lives on the 46th floor and she starts to panic. “Earthquake,” she screams and runs for the door. Dodging falling debris and jumping over furniture that now litters the floor she reaches the door… it won’t open.
A loud crack explodes and a beam of red light dresses her body, she is pulled forward towards the balcony french windows, she screams and struggles to no avail. She reaches the windows which suddenly are ripped from their hinges and disappear into the darkness of the night. She stops struggling and her eyes focus.
The ship is sleek and silver shaped almost like a bullet. The words OASIS VII adorn the front. There are no seams, hatches or windows. Stacey stares frightened yet excited.
A light emits from the ship at her gaze and stairs appear cascading to her feet. Stacy looks up and sees a silhouette. To her surprise it is Jess.
“Stacey,” Jess yells over the roar of the engines, “Come quickly Alex is in trouble……..”
by Fernando Caro
“This is nuts, this is just fuck’en nuts! How can this be happening? I must have really over done it last night taking four Ambien while drinking rum. I have to be hallucinating. It’s not possible, there is no way in bloody fucking hell……” Stacey thought to herself, shaking her head in pure stupefaction at what she was seeing out the blown out French windows of her apartment.
“Stacey, please come on, grab my hand we are running out of time. We can’t hover here like this indefinitely. Put a move on it! Alex needs you, he is in trouble… Grab my hand. Lets go girl, lets go quickly.” Jess screams at the top of her lungs trying to jolt Stacy into action..
Stacey woke up from her thinking and sprung into action, still not sure if she was dreaming or if this was really happening. Stepping quickly yet ever so gingerly over the bits of fallen debris while simultaneously ducking chunks of concrete and glass that was falling from the apartment above she made her way to Jess’s out stretched hand.
“Falling to my death from the 46th floor is not my idea of having fun. This kind of shit is for my novels not for me.” She thought to herself. “What was I thinking when I wished to live an adventurous life?”
Then before she could reach Jess’s out stretched hand she looked down at the earth beneath her. Stacey stood there frozen in place unable to move not another inch. Fear had struck her to her core rendering her completely paralyzed. The ground beneath her feet had shattered from the vibrations of the ships engines. It only made matters worse by standing there idle. She knew she had to move but could not will her legs to move. The balcony floor threatened to send Stacy pummeling to the ground if she did not get her ass in gear and start moving.
Waking from her state of shock, Stacy heard Jess’s voice in the recesses of her mind, bring her back to reality, “Stacy look at me… Stop looking down! Look up at me! Come on! Grab my hand! You can do this! Just one more step and you are home free. Come on Stacy! Come on, NOW…. If you don’t move it move you will plummet to your death.”
Breathing heavily and with tears streaming down her eyes she managed to get out, “I can’t! I just can’t Jess………..” Stacey’s voice trailed as she was catapulted off the ledge of the balcony. It all happened so rapidly but it all appeared to be happening in slow motion like everything else in Jess’s life. Jess heard Stacy’s voice trailing off as the balcony split, causing Stacy to loose her footing sending her plunging to the ground at 100 miles an hour.
Before Jess had a second to think she leaped off the stairs of the Oasis after Stacy. The high-pitched whorl of the zip cord filled the air almost drowning out the roar of the ships turbo boosted engines. “Why the fuck can’t things go smoothly for just fucking once?” She spat soaring through the air in a fatal attempt to save the sleeper handler before she met her death..
by Nzube Ifechukwu
Falling to the ground at an incredible speed, Stacey could barely breathe, and the sound of the rushing air in her ears threatened to block out her very thoughts.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, she could feel a needling, a gnawing in her brain, as if something of supreme importance was dawning at the edge of consciousness, fighting its way to the surface.
“I know this,” she said. “I know why and how!” Tears flew from her face in the rushing air. She imagined herself, seconds from now, splattered on the ground, with Jess and Alex’s lives, and the lives of countless others, hanging in the balance.
Suddenly, Jess appeared beside her, falling at the same rate.
“Stacey!” Jess’s voice was tinged with more than a hint of desperation. “Take my hands. NOW!”
Stacey looked at Jess, who was hard-bodied, lean, and angular–a raven-haired beauty with the glossiest, reddest lipstick Stacey had ever seen. In contrast, Stacey, who was just as beautiful, was soft and curvaceous, honey blonde, fresh faced.
Yet when Stacey looked deep into Jess’ eyes, she felt like she was looking in the mirror. She saw herself.
Stacey grabbed Jess’ hands and in one nauseating jolt their course changed direction. They began to ascend toward the Oasis, with the steady pull of reverse gravity.
by AD Joyce
“Oh take me now!” Exclaims Stacey, suddenly overcome in the moment.
“Stacey! This is neither the time nor the place. My days of experimentation were a time and place called college!” states Jess.
Stacey looks befuddled. “I was only talking about the gravity, taking me away from harm.” says Stacey. “You’re all of a sudden acting like a married man, hard up for it after months of agonising waiting!”
The two were now heading towards the Oasis. Stacey could remember stories from her father about a famous starfighter called Ruke Skyworker, or something along those lines. About how feeling your surroundings could navigate yourself through the trickiest of pathways. Stacey closed her eyes, grabbed Jessica tight. As they were falling, at the very right moment, BAM! Stacey put out her hand and grabbed something. She sensed it was there. It was a lever!
A door opened on the ship, they landed in a cabin. What a stroke of luck! What great senses Stacey had! The reverse pull of gravity landed them with a decent thud, enough to hurt, but not enough to turn into broken pancakes.
The door closed behind them. They were safe and were in the..
..hang on. The room was lit red. It had an eerie feeling. Usually dimly, red-lit rooms would mean one of two things. One, they landed in the enemy’s ship. Or two, Roxanne has put on her red light. They surely had used up all their luck, it had to be the first one. It looked as if they were in the last place in the universe that they wanted to be.
On Alex’s evil step-half-brother’s ship. They were on Krot’s ship!
The red lit room. “Now this is the right place to be stuck….hahaha,” laughed Jess. Stacey was mugged in confusion. No matter what Jess had been through, she learnt how to take up a challenge wonderfully. As they walked, on the side of the ceilings they saw Krot’s symbols lined up, “What is this place Jess?” asked Stacey in a shaky voice. Not after a moment of Stacey’s questions they heard a step, like they stepped onto a liquid……it wasn’t any liquid, it was blood. “Huuh!!” Stacey screamed, four corpses, medium armed Rebel soldiers, two shot multiple times, while the other two had one straight between their eyes. “Hmmmm, there were two killers, one happens to be a rookie, you see those multiple wounds?” said Jess pointing at the two corpses, Stacey nods her head, “That was the rookie, whereas these two here were shot by someone who takes daily practice and is pretty fast at taking out anyone who comes in his…..or her way…. nice team up…hahaha.” Stacey couldn’t take Jess’s giggles any more, “You stop that right now! We are stuck in a red room, with corpses and blood, we don’t know who’s headed our way and you’re laughing!” Stacey felt a warm touch on her cold shaking shoulders, “Hey, I know all this is happening, but if we lose our minds, and get nervous, we’ll just loose our focus, that would give an advantage to whomever is headed our way, we must be Fearless, our confidence enough must be to shake them when they see us, okay?” Stacey’s head had the same nod…..just after these words they heard loud thuds in the vent above. “Whatever is that, we will take it down!” Jess had that look in her eyes, beautiful, yet the love she had in her made her Fearless.
She started searching for any left over weapons of the rebels, they might have been less but they had people who could create technology far beyond what even Krot’s whole group of forced working scientists could think of. “Oh, there it is.”
She found a Point Laser9 sniper, with two handy Multiple Retracting pistols which had a slight jam because of the blood but she was able to clear them and a K72 Mini Pistol. “Thud!!!!”
Before she could turn and give them to Stacey, one Retractable was in her side pocket and a K72 in her left with another Retractable in her right hand pointing right at him. The vent had opened and someone had fallen right beside Stacey. His hair was hiding his face yet the fragrance felt known, she sensed a shiver in her spine, she was in a shock, her heart didn’t beat for a moment as he turned.” A..A…aa…Alex?” Her voice was breaking, Jessica’s hold loosened as she saw him. The fall had given him a bad cut on his right arm. Her pistols were about to fall but she held them and handed them to Stacey.
“Jess..ica,” his slow voice said, no sooner the words left his mouth she held him in her arms, mistakenly, also squeezing his right arm a little. “Okay, I’m hurt and that hurts more…haha” Jess had tears. “My girl doesn’t cry, come here.” He felt her breath breaking, “Hey, I Love you”, his voice was calm, “we’ve gotta get out of here and you’ve got to explain how you two got here?” Alex said as the tried to move and get up. “That’s what we are trying to figure out!” His ears yearned for so long to hear her sweet voice. She tore off her long tight sleeve and used it to bandage his wound. Stacey watched the moment, “Oh, okay, if we can just exchange this moment of romance for a peaceful hour later, that’d be nice. By the way that’s beautiful.”
by M. Faizan
As Jess and Alex break their embrace, the floor begins to vibrate and the red glow of the room turns a bright pink. Green vines with white bulbous glowing objects begin to sprout at a rapid pace threatening to choke off the room. “We’ve got to get the hell out of here!” Stacey yells as Alex tries to gather his footing after being thrown to the ground. A loud noise sounding like replicated thunder rips through the room bringing with it a rain shower of purple liquid.
Jessica seems to be in a daze as she inspects the green vines and as she begins to peel open one of the bulbs, the floor cracks in half and tears her away from Alex and Stacey! “Damnit Alex! Every time I get you back something happens to tear us apart! Jessica screams as she reaches for the outstretched arms of Stacey and Alex. The crack in the ground separating the crusaders grows wider still and the purple liquid that has been sprinkling down on them has turned into a violet sludge causing them to slip and slide ever closer to the gaping hole in the floor. In her fear, Jessica has crushed one of the bulbs in her tightly closed fist. When she opens it a small white key with a black diamond embedded in the middle is resting in her palm. “Look! guys! Check it out!” Jessica screams. “We don’t have time to look at anything!” Alex grunts. “We’re about to be swallowed up by this gaping hole in the ground! Hurry and jump over it to us before the hole gets bigger and more of this grape looking gunk comes down! Jessica! Are you listening?” She wasn’t. She had been hypnotized by the diamond and was slipping wide-eyed into the hole which now had grown to the size of small round swimming pool. “Stacey! Help me grab Jess! She’s out of it! Stacey!” Alex whips around, looks up and sees that Stacey is levitating high in the air and her eyes are cold and black. He looks down and sees Jessica falling into the hole. “Jessica! Jessica!”
by Tameka Mullins
“Jessica! Jessica…..can you hear me?” bellows Alex as he grimaces in writhing pain. “Grab that vine, now!!” But Jessica stares at the key, with its diamond casting a menacing glint in her eyes.
“Splash!” her reverie broken by liquid on her face. “What the…?” she mutters and suddenly realises the peril that she is slithering towards. Alex had flung one of the liquid filled white objects at her just in time.
“Grab that vine for heaven’s sake dammit!” yells Alex again as he falls on the sludge. In a split moment Jessica shoves the key in her pocket and lunges for the vine, much of which is being swallowed by the sinister hole.” C’mon!” Alex reaches for her as she clambers beside him. The violet liquid turns into a fast-paced river of debris and broken machinery.
“We’ve got to get Stacey!” Alex looks upwards and both their jaws drop as they watch Stacey’s trance – ashen – faced being lifted toward a blinding translucent light. Suddenly the air is filled with a horrible sound, like the cries of a thousand broken souls screeching in pain. The force of the liquid is overpowering them and wails pierce their ears – they know they have to act fast!
“Stacey…Stacey….can you see the shadow on the moon? That’s the evil sorcerer watching you!” teased her elder brother. “No…noooooo….” screamed a frightened seven year old Stacey,”I’m gonna hide and he won’t find me!” the memory playing in front of her as she remains transfixed in another time, motionless and speechless, only the blinding aerial ray lifting her towards…”no..not the sorcerer please..” she pleads in her heart.
by Dichen Ramachandran
A long slender finger traced over the control board gently pressing one button after another. He had been at this training for weeks, never before had one let alone three endured so much. When the light turned red, signaling another scenario had loaded in their minds he grinned, “Another impossible set-up, and another fall you might not escape…” he clicked his tongue against his lips and leaned back in his leather chair, marveling at the beauty of all the leads entering and leaving their bodies. Like beautiful marionettes they were suspended in his chamber, and he was their puppet master.
He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. It was rare he took such an interest in trainees, most were expendable, and more often than not they were experiments, but these three…well…they were different. J355, A73X, and 5T4CY were hand-picked by him. It was a rare treasure. Their genetics were pure perfection, it was only their minds that needed…altered.
Mr. Direwulf,” a timid female voice behind him said.
He swiveled in his chair to see her, “Yes,” He paused, this was a new nurse, one whose name he would not bother to remember, they never lasted long..
The petite brunette clicked her heals together and held her hand stiffly over her heart, “Um.” She began, “Sir, I’m here to give the trainees their injections, change their catheters, and I.V.”
“Then see to it.” The grey haired man stood and punched in the door code. He could clearly hear the soft rattle of the young woman’s’ supplies rattling on the metal cart, even over the whoosh of the door seal opening. He closed his eyes for a moment, imagining how much fear was coursing through her veins. It was intoxicating.
He was her superior in every way, and with a syllable he could have her dead, or worse, re-trained for the war, as he was doing with his newest acquisitions in the room beyond the glass.
When the door was fully open and the young nurse pushed her cart to enter the room beyond he grabbed her wrist and turned her toward him. Wordlessly he peered down his thin nose at her, raising an eyebrow in approval. “What is your name?”
Tears stung behind her eyes, “N-n-urse 3V37N.” She tried to be brave, but her voice was only a whisper.
He nodded, “You will meet me this evening in training room four, you have been chosen.”
Her knees nearly gave out, but as she had been trained she dutifully clicked her heals together and saluted him. “As you wish.”
Direwulf released her and motioned for the guard to take his place, “I have another training room to prepare, see to it 3V37N is brought there when she is finished with her duties.” He looked back at her tending his prize possessions. She would make a fine experiment, he thought, and perhaps when he was done with her they would be fully broken.
Evelyn, as she thought of herself, pretended to tend the nutrition line until she saw Direwulf leave the observation room. She removed a golden syringe from the bottom of her tray and slowly injected its contents into the main line. That serum would contain all the information Jess, Alex, and Stacey would need to break through the conditioning scenarios. Once she saw the golden fluid enter their bodies, she knew her purpose and job was done. In less than four hours they would awaken with all the knowledge and strength they needed to escape.
They were to be the chosen ones, the ones that would fight the tyranny of their people. She leaned down and whispered into Alex’s ear, “Viva La Revolution.” With that she stood and made proud eye contact with the guard watching her, “I won’t be an experiment.” She said, and drove the golden needle through her neck. As her blood sprayed the glass, she felt for the first time what freedom was.
by Lisa Brandel
Jess opened her eyes, her body ached and she was shivering. It seemed as if the cold in the room had wedged itself between her bones, she felt stiff and scared. What would be waiting for her? So much had already happened, such unexplainable things and she seemed so close to death. Or was that indeed the freedom she sort?
She felt Alex’s cold breath on her face, his eyes peered into hers.
“Please … say something,” his voice pleaded gently.
“I love you so much,” Jess said softly.
Alex embraced her tightly. “Oh, I love you too. So, so much. I thought I had lost you. We have to leave. Now! I’m going to be with you every step of the way but you have to do this, Jess. No matter what you see or hear, we must leave and never look back. Here, put this on,” he said throwing her a t-shirt.
Jess sat up from the narrow, metal slab she had been placed on and she screamed. The walls were sprayed with blood and Evelyn’s body lay crumpled on the floor. Alex embraced her again, pulling her trembling body close to his. He tried to console her, to calm her fears but he knew he didn’t have that much strength, not for now. Life was at stake and death was lurking only a few doors away.
“Baby, no. Don’t look at that now. We have to go. This … had to happen. Sacrifices had to be made and Evelyn made a choice.”
“Don’t look at THAT?! It’s not a thing Alex, that’s my sister. How dare you?! How … Oh why is all this happening? I …”
“There’s so much that needs answering, I know that. But we must be strong for just awhile longer so we can leave. Please, for me?”
“What about Stacey?” Jess asked softly.
Alex shook his head and Jess wanted to scream again, she felt her insides being ripped open but she heard the alarms sounding and the flurry of activity outside the windows and knew that this was not the time.
She got dressed and walked towards the door, trying hard not to look at the blood. She stopped at Evelyn’s mangled body, blew her a kiss and left the room with Alex.
They were the only ones in the long, dimly lit corridor. It was the perfect escape, the one opportunity they had been waiting for and it was theirs to seize, until they saw a unimaginable sight. A huge concrete ball was slowly rolling towards them.
by Pandora Poikilos
The ball was smooth and rolled down the corridor with grace, it had intention and seemed to know where it was going. “Jess we have to go the other way,” Alex says without taking his eyes of the ball. Alex swings around taking Jess by surprise. “hey!” Jess screams trying to maintain her balance. “Quick Jess we have to plug ourselves in again, it is the only way to survive!” “No, I can’t ,” replies Jess with panic in her voice. “We have to Jess, there is nowhere else to go and if they find us standing they will kill us!” They both run back to the lab, Jess slows as she passes her dead sister and Alex anticipating this gently grabs and kisses her as he whispers, “Babe, I’ll see you on the inside.”
“JESS, ALEX quick this way!” Jess and Alex simultaneously look up from where the loud voice came from. It was Stacey still covered in Evelyn’s blood. Jess and Alex reach the stool which Stacey has placed on top of one of the slabs that held them for god knows how long. They climb on to the slab below where Stacey is waiting.
The wall that separates the lab with the corridor explodes into a million pieces as the ball crashes though. Stacey holds out her hand to Jess as Alex heaves her up into the cavity not realising his hand is where it should not be! Jess makes a woo!! sound and looks back at Alex as she lands. Alex takes a giant leap and is in the opening landing on Jess just as the ball crashes onto the slab supporting the stool.
The sound of shouting voices can now be heard over the whaling of the alarms. “Come on you two, quick down this way…. ” Jess and Alex pass Stacey and proceed through the maze of wires and cables that engulf the ceiling cavity. Stacey quickly puts the lining back in place to conceal their exit. She knows that it will be minutes before they realise where they have gone.
Mr.Direwulf comes into the lab and is marvelled at the destruction his concrete invention has done. ”Sir they have gone through the roof!” Yells one of the guards. “Well why are you not following them and bringing them back to ME!!” yells Direwulf in anger. The guards look at each other for some command from their superior. S76H is only 29 and has risen the ranks of the firms security arm with ease. “J06N, T04Y, get us in.” T04Y hoists himself onto the slab where the stool once stood. The debris of the concrete ball all over it now. J06N passes the fallen stool to T04Y who climbs it and reaches for the ceiling tile.
BANG! The explosion blew T04Y’s head in half and J06N who was looking straight at the tile, gun pointing, only lost his face. The flash was enough to blow all in the room against the walls. Mr Direwulf was barely conscious when he grabbed his phone from his pocket. He used his thumb to dial, just one press………”they have escaped,” is all he said.
S76H had managed only to be thrown across the room. He adjusted his eyes and surveyed the scene, his company were motionless even the one with all his parts. He turns and sees Direwulf lower the phone at the other end of the room. He drags himself towards him, “Sir, Sir… are you alright?” Direwulf looks in his direction as he slowly gets closer. Sliding himself next to Direwulf he asks,”are you OK sir?” Then it becomes clear a piece of the lab was lodged in Direwulf’s neck. S76H now realises what the warm slimy liquid he is lying in, it is blood. Direwulf turns to him and barely says, “Find them, or we all go down.” It only took another 2 seconds for Direwulfs heart to stop.
The man was bothered by the vibrating in his jacket pocket. He asked not to be disturbed, was that so hard he thought. He grabbed the phone from his pocket and excused himself from his guests. The screen was clear and bright and the words, “they have escaped,” were clearly displayed. Just those words were enough for him. He knew what he had to do. Fernando had been cleaning up after the firm for almost 10 years and it was never a small fix…. But the pay was good and he smiled as he thought of his bank balance and the chase.
Thanks to Fernando Caro for stepping up after a certain someone was a no show.
Fernando stood in the middle of what used to be the lab. As he turned slowly to assess the damage he pondered, unconsciously picking at a tooth in the corner of his mouth with a fingernail. The dust had settled and as he looked around he thought to himself, ”This is definitely going to need a coat of paint.”
No matter, the task at hand was to find the three escapees. Fernando had done this so many times it was almost boring to him. He scanned the room one last time and deduced that if the three were not among shattered bodies strewn about, the only way out was up. There was a ceiling tile skewed that caught his attention. “They must have just made it out in time.” he thought to himself. Realizing the vast network of venting that traversed the complex in the overhead and that he was a bit claustrophobic, Fernando sighed and said out loud, “Two things…I’m going to need help, and I’m getting too old for this shit.”
The overhead was dark and full of obstacles. Alex, Jess and Stacey proceeded to work their way through the maze without any real plan other than survival. They knew that even if they managed to get to another part of the building, or even outside the place it would be crawling with security so waiting it out was not an option. They continued through the overhead stopping occasionally to peer through a vent to see if the coast was clear below.
Fernando called on the one person he knew could help him track the escapees short of having to crawl through the dark, filthy overhead to follow their trail. Myron had been Fernando’s apprentice for almost too long. He was quirky, OCD, and anal retentive, but his intellectual skills of deduction and strategy were unmatched. If Myron couldn’t find them, no one could.
Myron stood nervously in the room with Fernando trying desperately not to touch anything, ”I’m not dressed for this. This place is filthy…I need a Hazmat suit!” He tugged at his bow-tie as though trying to stay close to himself and flinched at the site of scattered rubble and body parts in the room. “Focus Myron!” Fernando snapped. “There are only so many ways to get out of here and I want you to sort out the most likely place we can head them off!”
It seemed like an eternity. Alex, Jess and Stacey had been ricocheting their way through the overhead trying to find a safe way out. “We can’t do this forever.” Alex said, “We have to take our chances and get down from here as soon as possible. We stand an even chance down there.” He stopped to look down through a vent and saw that it was a utility closet. The door was closed and if they were quiet they might not be detected. The three gingerly descended from the overhead into the small, dark space. The smell of cleaning chemicals burned their nostrils made their eyes water. “Let’s listen at the door. If it seems quiet, we’ll get out of here and find another place to hide for now.”
The silence was palpable. They could hear themselves breathing nervously, straining to hear any sound of movement outside the cramped closet. Alex held a finger to his lips, “Shhh.” as he gently grasped the knob, turning it to open the door. The door creaked open and Alex squinted down the narrow hallway. No one in sight. He turned back motioning Jess and Stacy to follow.
The door opened wide and the three stood in the opening looking for another escape. Stacy closed the door behind them and stepped to Jess’ side. They stood motionless for a second and then heard the sound of a gun cocking behind them. They all turned so quickly it looked as though they had levitated.
Standing in the middle of the hallway Fernando levelled the gun at them. With the other hand, he picked at a tooth with a fingernail. Next to him was a slight nervous looking man in a full Hazmat suit, frantically unwrapping a moist towelette to wipe off the sleeves of his Hazmat suit.
by Ron Reed
“Well then,” said Alex, nervously.
“Well then,” countered Fernando in an even tone.
“Sooooo, here we are,” said Alex, “I’m hoping this is where you monologue, tell us why the rebellion is so fruitless, and why the machines are really for the best?”
“You’re not worth the effort.”
“See, this is why we can’t have nice things.”
Jess punched Alex in the arm, the moment was far too serious for jokes. “So now what, Direwulf’s dead, who gets his job, you?”
“This isn’t about Direwulf. This is about the war that’s coming. A war bigger than you know.”
“So, killing us is going to strengthen the fight? I’m not following you here.”
“Killing you eliminates those not functioning as one. Unless we’re all one, we will not prevail. You are weak components in the system; you must be removed for the benefit of all.”
“Will winning the war restore that? Will quelling the revolution by murdering us really get you there?” said Alex.
“As the revolution ends, so ends the weakness.”
“Thus ends your humanity.”
“Thus ends your revolution,” said Fernando, who casually discharged his weapon toward Alex’s chest.
Stacey seized the moment and bolted toward Fernando and flung her body against him, knocking him to the ground.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” shouted Jessica.
Without waiting for a reply, both Jess and Alex leapt into the fray, overpowering both Fernando and Myron, who had been taking off guard by the misfire and Stacey’s sudden attack.
Punching, clawing, and hair-pulling, the five fought without any clear direction or winners.
At one point, Stacey fell away from the pack, and searched her pockets, finding a tiny notebook and pen. She wrote, “machines appear”.
From either end of the hallway, floating pods bristling with metallic pincers articulated extremities raced to the area.
Stacey wrote, “subdue men”.
One pod fired an explosive charge, which sent a chained harpoon cleanly through Fernando’s right thigh, dragging him down the hallway. The other pod telescoped a hooked spike from its undercarriage, and fell full-weight onto Myron’s shoulder, just below the clavicle, pinning him fiercely to the floor.
by Reginald Golding
The sudden clap of thunder and the fury with which C.I.A. Agent M.K. Smitters slammed the covers of the book he had been reading alarmed Jessica so much she jumped from the shower still glistening with water and soap and nothing else.
“Owwww Jess,” Alex moaned, his erection disappearing quickly as moth piss on a light bulb much to the amusement of Agent Smitters who, confined to a wheelchair and no longer able to perform, was privy to many of the intimacies between the striking couple he had rescued from the Orwellian Room 101202B almost a month ago.
Since the two had barely a dream, fantasy, or yearning that had not provided an Arunian with an adventure capable of being a bestseller,Smitters saw no reason to correct their assumption; unique in its shared originality, and quite exciting as he snuck out nightly to pleasure the mothers and daughters of the small Amazonian village they had sought refuge in. Tucked in a lush ravine next to pounding waterfall, the mist covered the tiny enclave with rainbows; thus ensuring safety from detection as well as slowly filling the black and white paint-by-number spaces inside Alex and Jessica’s brains with color, personality, and imagination.
Captured by the sensation-seeking Arunians, ruthless space travelers with no real right-lobe characteristics, they had been sucked dry as a “pulka” – the sweet fleshy fruit that had been so important to the aliens for without its juicy pulp, there was no imagination in the dull minds of the Arunians; in fact, if it hadn’t been for the gonzo journalist Huntley Twinson stowing away on one of their ships after ingesting the worm at the bottom of a bottle of rare mescal, the brain-bashing, stiletto-slashing, and machine-mashing entertainment the Arunians twisted Alex and Jessica’s purest memories, sweetest fantasies, and most colorful and exotic dreams into may have never found their way back to the couple’s cranium. Ah, and that would have been a shame, thought the usually callous Smitters as he got a front-row view in the mirror where the couple, unaware of their reflection, nipped and nuzzled each other like playful puppies until Alex, after hurriedly drying both their tanned and taut young bodies threw the towel across the room where it landed in Smitter’s lap sticking up a good six inches from where it should have been –like an umbrella with no prongs but one.
Jessica, catching the whole thing in the mirror shrieked with laughter while Alex, for the second time that day, watched the woman he desired elude his embrace once again.
by Willow Rose
Stacey awoke with a start. Did she hear something, no couldn’t be, she was alone. She had fallen asleep at her desk and wondered if she had wrote or dreamed her latest yarn for her blown deadline consumed her every thought. She could have sworn she heard a crash.
Maybe it was a dream she thought.
Then she heard it again.
And when she looked up, in the shadow there stood Jessica in the vestibule holding the Glock.
Stacy became speechless almost unable to breath.
Jessica walked closer, slow and confidant; her thigh high boots clicked on the hardwood floor, echoing through the quiet apartment. Her cloak almost touching the floor. “Surprised I see” she said.
She stopped in front of Stacy’s desk. “You’re pissing me off” the sternness of her voice obvious.
“I’m so tired of these fucking adventures” Jessica said. “I’m a good girl so to speak. I have my quote unquote bad side and enjoy a little escapade. But I want to be whisked away, fall in love” as she began to circle the desk. Stacy too shocked to move.
“I want to share hot chocolate on a cool fall day, watch the snow fall, long walks in the rain, mind numbing sex where I can just lose my soul in anothers soul.”
She ran her fingers over the spines of the books on the shelf, “You like poetry Stacy, oh never mind that’s not important.”
Jessica turned and faced Stacy the desk the only thing between them. “I’m tired” she said. I’m tired of being chased by machines, hooded men and evil sorcerers. I’m so tired at looking at corpses and fighting rebel soldiers. And most of all I’m fucking tired of you” as she pointed the Glock at Stacy….
by Writing In The Rain
….. stood and held Jess in a gentle embrace. “Tired of me – but of course!!!” That could be an interesting turnaround – tired of the creator, the mother, the life giver, the murderer – who in this world is ever satisfied?? Stacey thought… Aloud she said “Jess really, what would you have me do? If I killed you, you would probably haunt me for the rest of my life! If I let you live you would rather die than live the ordeals – but a story has to have ordeals or else you would complain to me of driving you mad with boredom! What would you have me do Jess? – this after all is your lot – you have no where else to go!”
Jess seemed lost, looking into space teary eyed and vulnerable! She contemplates the thought for a while and then faces Stacey with a pleading look… “And Alex? What about him? Is that all he is for you too – just someone you give “a lot to” and play him? Do you realize how that tears me apart? To think my hero is really someone who would not be able to stand by me if you don’t allow it?”
“Alex is all yours my love. No matter what happens in your lives and how you are thrown apart – Alex is just that one constant in your life. He is your summer through all the shit. Your faithful lover in as many lives as I will have you live. And you are his – always forever together. I promise! I will never let him let you down. He is what you want him to be.”
“Then let me live with him – I already want to retire with him and live a life of peace. If you can’t let me do that now. Give me a vacation Stacey. Let me go off to the Himalayas with him and forget about us if only for a while. I need to know how it is going to be when we have no one around us – just him and me like you intend at the end. Give me a taste of that Stacey I beg of you.”
“I admit your life is way more complicated than is fair! Your sub plots have even taken over your life line at times! I have plunged you deep in trouble just when you were gathering enough guts to carry on – I have been a terrible mother. But this is where I will make it up for you- this is where I carry you above the thorns….” Stacey goes back to her desk and starts banging on her keyboard…..
by Kriti Mukherjee
Stacy looks at the two sentences she has just created. She is surprised at what she saw. She has written some gibberish in Arabic letters. It is one thing for Jessica to jump out of the printed letters with an intelligent personality of her own, and quite another thing to simultaneously master unadulterated magic. Like switching Her Majesty’s language with Asiatic desert lingo.
“I want you right here and now Jess,” Stacy shouted, “if you are still around.” Jessica appeared, and looked into the keyboard following Stacy’s pointer. “Not I,” she volunteered.
“Who else is with you?” “Well, Alex is around, but he is not available; he is busy ruminating on possible hazards of an embodied life. I am afraid you have to deal with me only.” “OK here is the deal: either you fix this keyboard, or I am going to hand-write your departure from here to the Arunian ship to fend for yourselves.”
Stacy knows any soft-pedalling here might prove disastrous. These print word turned live characters haven’t gone through either the evolution of mankind or that of society; no ancestral rules of sobriety bound them down.
“I don’t know what is happening; I need to consult my partner,” Jessica fumbled. “Well, move your kindly ass to wherever your ruminating partner is churning ideas,” bellowed Stacy with rare asperity.
Jessica withdraws grudgingly. Stacy knows she could be under observation. Her deft fingers locates the notebook and the pencil; and she wrote : “Caution Alex, Jess has been contaminated with all kinds
of earthly germs that could write themselves into print- world-virus and eliminate you.” Nothing happens. Stacy continues, “Always remember whenever you are in confusion, meditate on it. You are sure to get the right bearing. ‘OM JESUS’ is a good enough mantra. Life consists of myriad of confusing situations; like a diagonal movement against parallelogram of natural forces. When that existence is juxtaposed on abnormal push and pull of nefarious influences, one tends to plunge into abysmal depth from where there is no resurrection.” Jessica emerges at Alex’s plane of existence. By this time Alex has acquired two most common human characteristics thanks to Stacy – fear and suspicion. Alex finds Jessica approaching him at a brisk pace. He swallowed hard. Oh! How would he live without her? What if Stacy is lying? But live he must even if it is like being the sole man standing after Armageddon.
“Hey Jess,” Alex shouts, “stay right there. I have found a way out. We must meditate on our situation instead of depending on that bitch Stacy. Agreed?” “Agreed about the bitch part, but we haven’t meditated before, have we?” “Oh! We could follow the rudimentary principles to arrive there. Ain’t gonna be a problem; ‘OM JESUS’ is a good enough mantra. Just focus all your bloody attention between the eyes, and stay there. The rest will take care of itself. But men and women should sit with their backs to each other so that neither gets distracted; and you are one hell of a distracting element.” Jessica sits down in lotus position and starts off. Alex tried to focus on Stacy, “Empower her to go all the way to her panacea.”
Stacy is amazed to see her pencil come to life on its own. It poised over the notebook and wrote down Alex’s message. She knows Jessica is already on her way to the cosmic magnetic field which would be the burial ground for whatever kind of life force she has. Alex watches anxiously. Jessica’s body suddenly seems to relax from Its forced meditative rigidity; it silently falls to the ground. He cautiously approaches the body. Her lips remain frozen in a kissing contortion; as if the last thing she had done was to kiss something or someone in an agonized ecstasy. A thought disturbs him. Perhaps the last word she uttered was ‘you’. Uncanny, Alex thinks, what if she had mouthed the ‘F’-word before that! Who was it directed to?
“One down, one to go,” Stacy muses, as she picked up the notebook. Alex’s blood pressure shot up deciphering the message. “You killed her,” Stacy wrote, “You wanted her to go all the way, you sent her there, I didn’t do a thing. Lab reports of my stuff here also say she was not contaminated either.” Grim faced, mind boggled, Alex sits down on the ground in the lotus position, and hopes that he would find his Jess at the end. Stacy heaved a sigh of relief. This one will go all the way even without prompting.
Stacy looks at the bottle of rum; she rummages on her desk for the bottle of Ambien. She is not able to locate it. She is irritated, extremely irritated. Bleary eyed, she swings her badly shaking hand in a semi-circle over the desk. Various objects drop on the floor. The Ambien bottle announces its location with a clatter. Stacy pours a stiff portion, and picks up the Ambien. She needs to sleep, sleep soundly, to clear her befuddled head. Hillary, her publisher, can wait till morning for the promised call.
In the morning Stacy finds herself in a state of groggy helplessness. She takes a prolonged cold shower, drinks cups of hot black coffee, chews a few tablets of Tums and swallows some Tylenol, and spends a couple of hours in a daze. She recovers enough of her faculties to realize that she was dangerously close to a break down, a well deserved one, she thinks. The pressure of writing is taking its toll. Her cellphone emits a muffled ring from under the debris on the floor. She fishes it out, and who else but Hillary! She says Hi to her. Yes, the shit is ready, she informs, the printer is disgorging the pages at an amazing speed, making up the MSS of her latest Alex-Jessica adventure series. She needs the hard copy for protection against cyber loss. Hillary scans through the mailed matter in an erratic manner, reading a few pages, skipping a lot more. “Something here is bothering me,”Hillary said haltingly, “Why do you want to figure as a character in the story?”
Stacy pounding heart skips a beat. Sensing her discomfiture, Hillary drops the professional tone, and assumes a friendly one. “Is there anything you want to tell me? You know I am always there for you.” Stacy clears her throat; now or never, she thinks. “Well,” she countered, “I had a go with Rum-Ambien Combi to withstand your pressure on the new MSS. In that story I thought some, the Combi thought some more. The story is a joint endeavour of drug induced fantasy and I in my loathsome originality. Savvy?” Hillary promises to look into it with sympathy and understanding. Meanwhile, she wants to send Stacy the very next day on a paid vacation for two; the escort will remain a pleasant surprise till the time of departure. Stacy smiles, “OK”, she says. Stacy tries to bring back some semblance of order in the house hold. She puts all the thrown about things in their proper places, collects the dirty clothes that were lying around the room into a laundry bag in a frenzied speed; there was not much time left before her vacation.
All done, she muttered. Something in the back of her mind tells her, not yet. She scratches her brain. The sense of a touch, a feel, while handling the dirty clothes, reminded her of something that she did not attach any importance to. She has to know what it is all about.
She goes through the laundry bag with a fine tooth comb. In the pocket of her faded, torn jeans, she fishes out a solid object – a white key with an embedded black diamond, Jessica’s souvenir from an Arunian
Is it happening all over again? Stacy shivers.
by Tapas Mukherjee